We Americans love how the inside of a new car smells. It’s scented like hot plastic and straight-from-the-factory glues. Mmmm. But consumers in China do not. And because our country is terrible now, and China is comparatively not, Ford is working on a way to eliminate the old standby of New Car Smell.
Ford has filed a patent for a process that would eliminate that new car smell so eagerly reproduced by air freshener companies here in the states. Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive, at J.D. Power told the Detroit Free Press that smell remains the number one problem in the Chinese market.
“Unpleasant interior smell/odor remains the top industry problem in that market,” said Brent Gruber, senior director, global automotive, at J.D. Power. “To put that in context, it is nearly double the problem rate of the second most prevalent problem, excessive fuel consumption.”
Consumer feedback from Chinese buyers in recent years has been consistent. More than 10 percent of drivers complained about the issue according to the 2018 J.D. Power China Initial Quality Study.
Ford even hired 18 Chinese smell testers to sniff out all offensive odors in their vehicles. Ford describes in its patent essentially “baking” the car in the sun with the windows open and the fans on until the plastics, vinyl and other chemicals have released all of their noticeable gasses.
This isn’t Ford’s first attempt at clearing the air in their cars. A few years ago we reported that Lincoln was putting charcoal canisters into the cars remove every trace of new-car scent.
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It may seem like madness to us, but Chinese customers may be on to something here. You see, that new car smell is caused by a process known as “outgassing,” and it’s what happens to newly produced plastics and other various synthetic or treated materials early in their usage.
Lyndon Conrad Bell, a reporter who has covered the auto industry for 20 years, found that the interior of new cars are essentially storage tanks for potentially harmful gasses. While the chemicals are usually only present in small amounts, heat speeds up the process. Which is why if you leave your new car out in the sun on a hot day, you may want to roll the windows down, rather than enjoy that delicious chemical soup coming from your dash.